Former Grand Prix driver Howden Ganley is celebrating a very special milestone today, with the New Zealander turning 70 today!
Born in the town of Hamilton, Howden’s motorsport interests were sparked in his teenage years with his first visit to the non-championship Grand Prix at Ardmore in 1955.
Before his twentieth birthday, he’d set sail for the UK with $50 to his name, and found a job working as a mechanic at a racing school. While he was only occasionally able to satisfy his thirst for racing, he proved a very talented mechanic and engineer, and was well paid for his skills.
He worked as a crew chief for Skip Scott and Peter Revson in the 1966 Can-Am Series, and by 1967, he’s raised enough funds to buy a new Brabham to enter the Formula 3 championship. He remained in the category for another two years, often mixing it with the best until his big break came in 1970.
He moved into Formula 5000 in 1970, finishing runner-up to Peter Gethin in a privately-entered McLaren M10B, and this was enough to earn him a junior drive with the BRM team for the 1971 F1 season.
It was a mixed year, but he picked up points with a fifth at Monza and a fourth at the season-ending Watkins Glen race; he also performed well in the non-championship races, with a second-placed finish at the Oulton Park Gold Cup being his best result.
His second season with the team was less successful – largely on account of not being bestowed with the latest chassis developed by the team – but he managed to finish fourth at the German Grand Prix and sixth at the following race in Austria. He also finished second in the Le Mans 24 Hours, driving a works Matra with Francois Cevert.
In 1973, he made the jump to Frank Williams’ team (a joint effort with the Iso group), but the FX3 and Iso-1R he drove were not competitive, and his best finish was a sixth at the penultimate race at Canada.
In 1974, he was scrounging for F1 opportunities, and had two championship outings with March before he made the ill-fated decision to join the little-known Japanese Maki F1 outfit. The team’s F101 was a dreadful car, and after failing to qualify for his first outing at the British Grand Prix, he suffered leg injuries at the Nurburgring when a suspension failure caused career-ending foot and ankle injuries.
Returning to his engineering roots, he and Australian F1 driver Tim Schenken co-founded the TIGA Cars group, which designed a built a host of successful chassis used in a variety of championships for many years.
[Images via ASAG, GP Total]